Jeff Galloway has been running for 52 years, and in that time, he's been on the 1972 U.S. Olympic team, competed against the world's best athletes, shattered records, authored numerous training books and inspired more than 300,000 people using his unique run-walk method.
Anyone can run, have fun and remain injury-free with this technique, Galloway said, and he's come to Missoula to explain how and why.
Galloway is here at the invitation of Run Wild Missoula, the local running club that puts on the Missoula Marathon.
His mission: "To improve the quality of people's lives through exercise."
Running doesn't have to be a painful experience, and it's an excellent way to get and stay moving - even for people who are morbidly obese, Galloway said in an interview Monday.
"By placing liberal amounts of walking into running, it allows for the body to warm up slowly and adjust pain out of the system," he said. "This isn't a system just for people who want to run a marathon or half marathon. It is for anyone who wants to walk-run or to get into better shape.
"But for people who do use this method for a marathon, often their race times are the same or better than if they just ran."
Galloway has been fine-tuning his technique, officially called the Galloway Marathon Training Program, for the past 32 years. The program is based on scheduled walk breaks, which allow athletes to cover long distances, build speed and increase endurance with relatively low weekly mileage and low risk of injury.
This unusual way of training began somewhat by happenstance in 1974, when a Florida State University professor walked into Galloway's running store and encouraged Galloway to teach a college-level introduction to running class.
Because he loved the sport and wanted others to experience the joy of running, Galloway agreed.
Twenty-two students signed up for the 10-week course; none had run in the past five years.
Out of shape and out of practice, Galloway knew walking would play a key training role. As was expected, the class quickly broke out into three distinct groups - those who could run the entire class, those who ran but needed walk breaks, and those who mostly walked and could sometimes run.
Building walk breaks into the workouts - such as for every 1 minute of running, his class would walk two minutes, and then repeat the cycle - all of Galloway's students were injury free at the end of the 10-week course, and were so fit they finished a 10K or 5K race.
"They had a great life experience and I realized then that walk breaks would be part of my own fitness program, and that there are a whole lot of different ways to train," he said.
But it wasn't until a few years later, when Galloway was running the 1978 Houston Marathon that he truly understood the effectiveness of his walk-run program.
In the last few miles of the course, Galloway became so cramped while running, he put his competitive ego aside and walk-ran his way to the finish line.
"It turned out to be my life's fastest marathon time," he said, "and I did it with walk breaks."
To this day, Galloway and his wife Barbara walk-run, and prefer a workout that is a repeating cycle of 30 seconds of running and 30 seconds of walking.
"I've been injury-free 32 years because of this," he said, "and thousands of people tell me they have been injury-free running this way."
Galloway said his goal is to inspire people to get moving and hopefully find the exhilaration he and other athletes find in the simple pleasure of running.
He encouraged everyone to come to his talk, particularly those who are looking for an extra boost of encouragement to start or stick to a fitness program. He hopes longtime runners come and hear how to remain injury-free in the sport they love.
A question-and-answer session will follow his 7 p.m. talk on Tuesday at the Wilma Theatre, and Galloway says he welcomes all questions.
"It is my mission to help others avoid aches and pains," he said. "The exhilaration you get from running is an exhilaration you just don't get in any other sport.
"It changes lives for the better."
Reporter Betsy Cohen can be reached at 523-5253 or at email@example.com.